When does college recruiting start?

I have a son in middle school who seems to be quite good at both soccer and STEM. I have no idea if either or both of these interests will continue, but assuming he wants to play soccer in college at a school with strong athletics, what’s the process? Right now, I assume, the focus should be on doing well in school, getting him good coaching, and playing at a higher level. But when do things like camps, and making videos, and reaching out to coaches happen? What’s the process?

My son just went through soccer recruiting and is graduating HS in a week.

Get “The College Scholarship Playbook” on Amazon, it sets out the recruiting process clearly and simply. Then go and read all the soccer related threads in this subforum.

There is no one set path. After 9th grade, my son attended 3 or 4 on-school ID camps, to get him used to ID camps but also to check out types of schools to see what type he might be interested in. He went to UConn, Dartmouth and Amherst. He reached out to college coaches when his team was playing in tournaments.

After 10th grade, he was more deliberate about ID camps, and went to Williams’ Middlebury, Tufts and Brown. He started to get coach interest at this point. He went to a camp at Bates that fall. He did a highlight video winter of junior year, and got a lot of attention from that. Then COVID hit. Nevertheless, he ended up with 5 offers starting the spring of Junior year into August. He accepted one of the offers, at a school that had become his 1st choice, applied ED with coach support, and got in.

A couple of questions as you are starting out: in 9th/10th grade, ask the club coach what level your son projects to play at. Boys change, so coaches often are hesitant to say until that point. If you have a true superstar that Stanford will want, those kids are mostly evident in 9th grade.

The other question is to figure out what your family wants from recruiting. Is it to play on the best team possible? Is it D1 or bust? Is it to leverage recruiting to get into very academically selective schools? Knowing your goal will guide your strategy.

But in middle school yes, the focus is on improving. I also think playing in low pressure situations, like pick up games, or with siblings in the yard, and also guarding against burnout, are important.

Good luck!



This is all super helpful. I have trouble imagining making a college list for a 9th grader. My other kid is that age, and he wouldn’t have a clue.

As far as what he wants, is D1 an option for a STEM kid, who pretty consistently says he wants engineering? I’m not sure I understand the difference between the experience of a kid at a academically rigorous D1 school, vs. an academically rigorous D3 school.

The good news is, you don’t have to worry about any of this right now. Spend time reading and educating yourself, if you want, but even that isn’t necessary if your son is in middle school. Just focus on the soccer and the academics, and the rest will come.

I do think it is good for a parent to understand the recruiting landscape, so kudos to you for having it on your radar.


My understanding is the biggest difference will be in the athletics, not in the academics. If you look at the schedule (not from 2020-21, but go back to 2018-19 if you can find archives because Covid changed a lot of things) from a D1 team and a D3 team, you will see a lot more travel to further away games at the D1. More travel means more absences from classes and the potential for missing labs. It can be done but some kids just aren’t made for that kind of schedule. It was suggested to us (different sport) to look at rosters and see what the athletes tend to major in. Not all schools post that in a player’s bio but if they do, it can provide some insight into how the academics and athletics fit together.


Cinnamon1212, do you mean “The Athletic Scholarship Playbook”?

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Sorry, yes, that’s what I meant! Thanks for supplying the correct title :slight_smile:

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Thanks for confirming the title. It seems like the book that will be very helpful to my situation. Much appreciated.

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Thanks everyone!

I’ll check out the book, and also look at club rosters. That’s a great idea. It didn’t occur to me I could find that info.

@Sportsball To answer your D1 vs. D3 question, the difference is all in the athletic commitment. Athletics at the D1 level, including men’s soccer, are essentially a full time job that will need to be managed concurently with the athlete’s education. Even in the off season the commitment can be extensive. At the D3 level their in-season commitment isn’t that much different, but their off season is significantly less intense, which allows for things like study abroad.

Definitely an option. It’s a tougher logistical challenge, with labs and usually a heavier course load with limited flexibility. But a lot of D1 athletes do it. Some of the difficulty can be reduced by taking a few of the lab-heavy courses in the summer or off season, coming in with AP or DC credits that will eliminate the need for intro chem, physics, calc, etc. Anyway, it can definitely be done at most schools. Of course, there are programs where a coach will stop recruiting an athlete who is set on engineering. That’s fairly rare I think. More common is an athlete gets into college and realizes she could do the engineering degree but life will be more simple and satisfying with an Econ degree.

I agree with Cinnamon that you don’t need to worry too much about this right now but it’s good to be asking these questions. One often overlooked area on the academic side is the testing schedule. Who knows what role tests will play post-Covid and forward…but pre-Covid it was sometimes a challenge for athletes to find time in their schedules for the ACT or SAT. And I don’t just mean they are busy kids. They often had competitions year round that conflicted with test dates. Most of the recruited athletes I know could find only 1 or 2 test dates all year that they could make. In my sport, Track and Field, it was crucial to have those scores in hand by spring of junior year. I don’t know about soccer. But for those who waited until the last minute, life was pretty rough.

I applaud you for exploring this early, and with the mindset that interests could change and that’s okay. The only other advice I’d give at this point is to enjoy your family vacations as it gets harder and harder to squeeze them in.

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I agree with @politeperson’s assessment of needing to plan ahead. D20 was a swimmer with a fall season at school and a travel team the rest of the year. She had her final SAT sitting in early spring of her junior year. We planned ahead with college visits, too, knowing it would be hard to get everything done in time for ED deadlines when she was in the middle of her season.

My son’s soccer season is 10+ months long. Scheduling anything outside of mid-December or the month of July can be a real challenge. I agree that testing can be a real issue, especially at the older ages when school grades are mixed. My son’s team is primarily 2021 players with only 3 2022’s. That means the coaches aren’t worried about things like SAT and ACT dates because 19 of the 22 players on the roster are already committed and graduating this June.

In terms of college visits, any soccer realted travel should include a pit stop at the nearest campus, even if the school isn’t necessarily in the running. It helps a student begin to form an understanding of the type of school they would prefer.

Agree, my D3 soccer kid spent about 25-30 hours in season on his sport – including travel, team meetings, lifting, film, practice and matches. Off season was more like 5-15 hours per week. We have family friends who are D1 coaches and they described their players’ commitment as more like 40 hours per week. Another expression we heard about D1 soccer in academically rigorous schools was something like, “there’s soccer, academics, social life. Pick 2.”


That’s really helpful! Can I ask what conferences they play in? I assume there’s a big difference between say Big10 and Patriot. Is there a similar difference between various D3 conferences? I feel like I’ve only ever read about NESCAC.

We are most familiar with ACC, where we heard the 40 hours in-season and “pick 2” comments.

There are differences among D3 conferences because of different in/out of season regulations. NESCAC, I understand (my kid was not in that conference) does not have much (at all?) pre-season before other students move in and does not have formal spring season. I also understand, though am not positive, NESCAC does not do the international pre-season training trips that other conferences may do. My kid’s conference (NCAC) had move-in about 2 weeks before other 1st years for dedicated, 2-a-day training, plus formal spring season with practice, and one international trip per 4 years, so every player gets to travel abroad for a pre-preseason training session.

Other differences are whether classes are scheduled durning the regular team practice times. My kid’s school did not schedule class after 4:30, so there wasn’t an issue of choosing between the lab and practice. Also, look at season schedules to get a handle on travel, weekends and mid-week. UAA – think NYU, Brandeis, Chicago, Emory – have longer travel weekends in D3 but may not have the same mid-week game schedule as other conferences where there are more schools in-conference which are closer together.

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Thanks for this update it will be really helpful for many students

@Midwestmomofboys, you are correct as usual. The NESCAC permits 13 practice opportunities prior to the start of classes, but they are counted two per day until classes start. I have heard that international trips in addition to the week prior to the start of school were viewed as conflicting with this rule. Some schools may encourage team members to enroll in pre-season, off-campus “camps.” The camps have other folks in attendance, but most of the individuals on the team agree to enroll.

The NESCAC does not have a spring season in soccer, but there are captain’s practices in the off season.

I’ve seen more schools “expecting” incoming 1st years to come to the recruiting camp the month or so before school starts, gives the coaching staff a chance to see the new players over a period of a few days.